Spirit of Regret
He was sure of many things. One of them was that he was dead, and this was his only chance to finish what he had left undone.
But he had to learn to affect the living world.
* * *
Glad you're doing the walking, not me.
Doctor Gideon Lacroix climbed the stairs to the Occult Investigations Agency. The brownstone was in the Riverside district of Freedom City, two blocks from Ditko Street. The ground floor was an occult bookshop ("Spellbound") and the basement held a jazz club ("The Sweet and Low Down"). He stopped to check his reflection in the gold lettering on the door.
Looking sharp, came the voice again.
Thank you, Grandfather, he thought as he smoothed his hair and made a miniscule adjustment to the knot of his tie. He pushed open the door to the well-appointed reception area. At the rosewood desk sat a beautiful young woman who hastily put down a sketchpad and pencil and looked up at him. He looked at her face for a moment—
Wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers.
Hush, Grandfather. "I'm looking for Mister A. Martin Campbell." He stepped up to the desk, curious about what she had been drawing—curious about her. A little executive toy—a Newton's cradle, with a series of suspended balls—began to clack, as though he had disturbed it. She frowned and stilled it with her hand.
"He had a problem with one of his other businesses. May I help you?"
He suppressed his first thought—his grandfather didn't—and said, "I'm Doctor LaCroix. He hired me to start today."
"Oh." She smiled. "You must be the houngan."
"Yes. And doctor of theology."
"Of course. I can show you to your desk." The little toy was still clacking. She reached out to stop it again. "Ow." She stuck a finger in her beautifully formed mouth. "It pinched me."
He reached out to take her hand, then paused. "You wouldn't be...menstruating, would you?"
"I don't think that's any of your business."
He pulled back. "Of course not." He reached down to quiet the toy, but it would not stop, the little spheres moving faster as he reached toward it. He pulled his hand away. It slowed. "Where did you get that?"
"A crazy lady put it on the desk this morning. I thought she came in for a handout, but she said it was a gift."
A magic detector, said his grandfather, inside his head.
I wonder who the crazy lady was?
When he left the room, the clacking noise stopped.
The tour was quick: The second floor was divided into two small meeting rooms, an office space with a half-dozen cubicles, washrooms, two store rooms, a kitchenette, and reception.
"And now, your co-workers." With a flourish, she showed him a pair of cubicles, one with a very small man and the other with a compact muscular man. The small man might have been in his forties; the other man maybe in his late twenties, but scarred by life. "Mister Toomey, Mister Markur—" The man raised his hand. "Seth. This is Doctor Gideon LaCroix."
LaCroix didn't offer to shake hands. Neither did they.
"We have two other employees, Jedediah Cabot and Lamb Hutton, but they're out on a case."
"Lady asked for Cabot," grumbled Toomey.
"Dial 9 to get out with the phones. Your computer is set up with the database access you asked for."
"Excellent. Thank you, miss—?"
She blushed a darker shade of mocha. "Daya. Talithe Daya. I'll go watch the phones. Let me know if you need anything."
The men watched her leave. Finally she shut the door and Markur said, "And your opinion on magic is...?"
"A powerful and capricious force."
He nodded. "All right. Sorry, one of our other co-workers doesn't believe. Cabot—that's why he left here like he had a demon on his tail; the case was adultery without a whiff of magic. I'd like to leave him in Hell for a year and let him decide then if he believes."
"You've been to Hell?"
Markur nodded. "You?"
LaCroix shook his head. "I've never gone farther than the twilit realms."
"LaCroix your true name?" asked the little man.
LaCroix smiled. "Of course not. Toomey yours?"
"You couldn't pronounce it," he replied.
"You might be surprised." He looked the man up and down. "Leprechaun?"
"Dammit! I'm not one of those leather-fondling cobblers. Clurichaun. Clurichaun, I'll have you know."
"You seem high strung."
"My mother was Italian."
LaCroix nodded. "I'll sit down, now." He murmured an apology to his grandfather and set his walking stick against the desk.
He put away the office supplies he had gathered and began setting up his computer the way he liked. Eventually he became aware of the other two watching him.
"You know how to use that thing?" asked Markur.
Toomey said, "Never catch me with one."
Markur's phone rang. He picked it up gingerly, adjusted the handset and carefully said, "Yes?...We'll be there." He set it down carefully. "We have a client."
* * *
"I agree," said Jedediah Cabot. "That behaviour is typical of a man having an affair."
"But that doesn't mean he is," Lamb Hutton said.
Eileen Corrigan gestured at herself. "Look at me. Look at me. I can't lose the baby weight. I can barely get clean in a day. Some days it's all I can do to have a shower."
"My wife was the same way," said Cabot. “You grow into caring for them. It's tough having a baby.
"Gabe doesn't think so."
Hutton said, "He's wrong."
"I'm a fat pig."
"You're not," said Hutton.
"Has he said anything about your weight? Your appearance?"
"Just since... Since Mike died. His brother."
"Michael. He was a firefighter. He died in the line of duty. Last month."
"Trish is gorgeous." Eileen began to sob again. Hutton handed her another tissue. "She's a model."
"She's obviously Michael's widow," said Hutton.
"Yes," said Eileen. "And Gabe hated her. That was the only way most people could tell them apart—if Trish was in the room, it couldn't be Gabe with her."
"Back up a moment. Gabe and Mike were identical twins?"
"Yes. Gabe's a photographer. Mike dropped by the studio the day Trish showed up to model, and they started going out."
"Gabe and Trish worked together?"
"Just the once. He found her impossible."
"He told you?" She nodded.
"Okay, Mrs. Corrigan. I'll get addresses from you and we'll try to get some proof, one way or the other."
"It will be all right," said Hutton.
* * *
"We've been having poltergeist effects since my fiancee's uncle died. I'm worried that he's haunting us, that he wants us to sell the restaurant." Derek Hughart ran his fingers through his short blond hair, then drummed them on his thigh. He realized he was doing it and laced them together in his lap. The other three were around the table in the meeting room. Toomey sat on his booster seat, and LaCroix had his walking stick across his lap."The restaurant...William Emz," said LaCroix. "I've eaten there."
"The restaurant was his life. Anyway, when Uncle Bill died, Alice inherited as the only surviving relative. She and Bill weren't very close, but Bill believed in family. So. Not too long after she moved to town to take over, we got a visit from Erik Roache. He's another restaraunteur."
"I'm not sure I'd say that," said LaCroix. "Roache owns the chain of Boobies."
"A chain of what?" asked Markur.
"A restaurant franchise that prominently figures a blue-footed booby—a bird—on its ads, but their hiring practices emphasize a different meaning of the name."
"I don't understand," said Markur.
"Later," said Toomey.
"Apparently Uncle Bill had an agreement to sell to Roache. Alice refuses. The poltergeist phenomena are Bill's way of letting us know he disapproves."
"How would Roache know?"
"He saw it. The second and third times he visited. I saw it too."
"And what do you want us to do?"
"I want to have a seance. I want to find out what uncle Bill wants, and put him at peace. Alice will agree if she's sure that's what Bill wants."
"We're investigators, Mister Hughart."
"I just...Alice doesn't believe. She didn't believe the medium who told her, but you guys—she'll believe you, if you find out that it's Bill."
"Of course," said LaCroix. "You're fortunate that we now have on staff someone who can talk to the restless dead."
Don't toot your own horn, grandson.
* * *
"Why would he do it?" asked Hutton. "If he hates her.""I dunno," said Cabot. "Maybe he hates his wife more. Maybe he never hated her, but his brother moved in so fast and he was already married that it was easier to say he despised her. To hide the attraction."
Hutton thought about it for a moment, chewing on an Oreo. "It sounds complicated."
"Yeah, people aren't usually complicated. Not the ones you see in this business. He's going in. I'll get the camera. You wait here."
Cabot squatted by the window, snapping shots. Yes, she was a looker, but he didn't respond to her the way he had to April Brogan. At first, the two just talked, with the male Corrigan trying to convince her of something; the house had central air, and none of the windows were open. Then, she softened, and took off her blouse—and the doorbell rang. Around the house, he could hear Hutton's voice. "I was wondering if you've given any thought to what happens to us after we die?" He cursed as he saw Corrigan slip out the back door.
* * *
They walked the two blocks to Ditko Street and the additional four blocks to William Emz. On the street, Markur said, "Wait. We're going into a restaurant. They have food. I'm hungry.""It won't be polite to eat there."
"I know," said Markur. "Some of the Italians were the same way. So I want to grab something to eat now. I have money." He spotted a vending machine. "Even that will do." He compared the price with the coins in his pocket, checked again, and then fed the coins into the slot, one at a time. LaCroix stepped away so he wouldn't be associated with Markur. Toomey hopped onto a bench and lounged in the sunshine.
Markur hit the button combination for the snack: D4. The spiral curled and then stopped; the treat fell forward and leaned against the glass but did not fall.
"It's supposed to fall," said Toomey.
"I know that," said Markur.
"Don't look at me; I talk to the dead, not to junk food," said LaCroix.
Markur grabbed the sides of the machine and shook it. The treat stayed wedged in place. LaCroix looked around; no one was staring—yet.
"Let's just go to a convenience store," he said. "It's just potato chips."
"The machine has my money," Markur growled. "When I pay, I expect service."
He rocked the machine once more, but the treat stayed. People were slowing to watch, now.
Markur narrowed his eyes. "I will not brook this behaviour." He pulled out his pocketknife.
Toomey said, "I don't think you need to be that drastic. That thing belongs to someone."
"What are you going to do?" LaCroix asked. Then he said to Toomey, "What can he do with that pocketknife?"
"More damage than a shotgun," said the clurichaun.
A pretty black woman stopped. "Hey, you don't need to be taking that apart."
Merkur stopped. "I don't?"
"No. Nine times out of ten, you can jar it loose like this." She slammed the side of the machine with her open hand, then twice more. The bag of potato chips fell to the bottom.
"Thank you, miss—?"
"Melody.” She smiled. “Melody Bull. And you?"
"Seth Markur. It's a pleasure. Thank you."
"Well, I figured since the brother wasn't helping you, I'd offer aid."
"Kind of you. I'm on my way to something but I'd like to thank you. Buy you dinner. Here's my card."
She smiled indulgently. "All right. I'll call you when I'm free."
Hmmm, thought LaCroix, I wonder if she's menstruating?
Grandson, you got your priorities wrong.
* * *
Cabot sneaked away from the house, back to the car. Hutton showed up five minutes later. He stared straight ahead as he gripped the steering wheel of the car. "What," he said, "the hell are you doing?""You know there's papers floating in the back of the car?"
"What the hell did you think you were doing?"
"You're making the papers fly. That's—"
"What the hell did you think you were doing?"
She twisted her hands in her lap. "I couldn't let him cheat on his wife."
"That's not what we're paid to do."
"Didn't you listen to her? She doesn't want her husband to do this. So I stopped him."
Hutton looked down at her hands. "Yes. But Trish says she thinks it's, um, creepy. That's what she called it."
"Well, he does look just like her dead husband."
"Except for the tattoo." Cabot executed a perfect spit-take, and then mopped the steering wheel, dash, and windshield with tissues. "She's not very fond of Gabe either so Mike had a tattoo put somewhere only she would see. She hinted but I couldn't figure out where."
"Yeah. I bet you couldn't."
* * *
Alice Gaines might have been thirty, with blonde hair that had a dark streak running down one side. She looked tired, and her body pushed against the smock she wore. "I don't believe in ghosts," she told them."I don't believe in all ghosts," said LaCroix.
"Well, that's something. This is an area where Derek and I just won't agree. I love him to death, but he's the kind of guy you could tell they took 'gullible' out of the dictionary, and he'd believe you."
"I would not," said Derek. "I stopped falling for that one when I was twenty." She shushed him.
"I see," said Toomey. "By the way, do you have a wine cellar here?"
"Yup. Of course. Wine's not my specialty—I'm a dessert chef—but I can pick out a few vintages here and there."
"Where were the ghostly events?" asked LaCroix.
"They started in the basement. By the pool table."
"Did your uncle like the pool table?"
"Not particularly. He got it to annoy my aunt, before she passed away. She was always on him to exercise, so he picked the easiest sport he could find."
"But he maintained it?"
She grimaced. "My uncle alphabetized his underwear. He sent notes to creditors telling them that their bills were late. He maintained it."
"Balls flew off the rack," said Hughart.
"Later they flew."
"You saw this?"
She shrugged. "Derek saw it. I saw the bruises afterward. And I hear it late at night sometimes. We get deliveries on Pasko, through the back door. Often I'll be heading to get the deliveries and I'll hear the balls bouncing off the floor."
"The basement," said LaCroix. "Did he die there?"
"No, he died at the hospital. Stroke. He held on for a couple of days, but he was paralyzed. I'm not sure he was even really...thinking...by the end."
Poor bastard, said LaCroix's grandfather. I know what it's like.
"My grandfather went through the same thing," said LaCroix. "May I see the basement?"
"In a moment," said Alice Gaines. "See, I don't believe in this stuff. So I don't want to give you unobserved access." She glanced at the clock. "He should be here soon."
"I called a debunker. Doctor Evan Severn. The ghostbreaker."
* * *
Hutton's analysis was simple: "If Gabe doesn't like Trish, and Trish doesn't like Gabe, then there's a third force involved."Cabot shrugged. "Like your superpowers?"
"I don't have superpowers. It's magic."
"Uh-huh. Trish might have been lying to you. Being confronted about infidelity is enough to make most folks lie. Sometimes people do things they say they don't like. People lie to others—and to themselves."
"Uh-huh. Which brings me back to what the hell you thought you were doing."
"I was helping with what she really wants.."
"And you're the expert? Okay, so you help here—keep watching the house. Be inconspicuous. Do you have that cell phone Campbell gave you? Okay. Call me if Corrigan comes back." Cabot quickly showed her how to turn it on and where he was on speed dial.
"Where are you going?" she asked as she got out.
"Interview people who knew them."
Hutton bent down to the open window. "How do I look inconspicuous?"
"I don't know. Walk around the block. Use your superpowers over dirt to hide."
"It's not a superpower, it's magic—" she said, but he was already gone.
* * *
"Doctor Evan Severn?" asked LaCroix."Yes. You know him?"
"We were on faculty together. FCU."
"And your opinion of him?"
"Brilliant, but with skepticism that blinded him to possibilities."
"And his opinion of you?"
A new voice chimed in, "A promising mind gone credulous, taken down the primrose path of gullibility. Hello, Gideon. I wish I could say it's nice to see you. I can guess which side of rationality you're on." Severn was a tall man, with a high forehead and dark hair. He carried a walking stick.
"Actually, Evan, I haven't made up my mind about this one. Spirits are more common than you suppose but less common than the devout suppose."
"Were there even one, Gideon, they would be more common than I suppose. May I help you, miss?"
"I'm Alice Gaines. I own this restaurant." She briefly described the situation.
"Gideon, do you want to do mumbo-jumbo first and then I'll shine the clear bright light of reason?"
"Please, you go first. And I will make my comments without hearing yours, if you don't mind. I don't want either of us to be prejudiced, Evan."
"How kind of you. Ms. Gaines, may I?" She nodded and Severn followed her out of the room.
"Well. What do we do now?" asked Toomey.
Markur said, "Mr. Toomey, how silent is a clurichaun when he wants to be?"
"And what do you think are the odds that this building has a wine cellar in the cellar?"
Toomey smiled. "Excellent it seems to me. Now, if you'll look away?"
Markur looked at the ceiling while LaCroix examined his nails. Afer a few moments, Markur said, "He's gone. I know why I would have let Seven go down. Why did you?"
"If mere disbelief were enough to scare this spirit away, then Alice Gaines would have already done that. So his mere presence won't do anything. And, though I hate to admit it, Boyfriend is credulous. It might all be a trick caused by Roache."
Markur nodded. "My reasons too." He touched the desk calendar. "I feel useless here. During the war, I was counted as a leader of vision and broad knowledge. Here...."
"Don't worry," said LaCroix. "I'm sure demons will show up eventually."
"I only hope they're old-fashioned demons and not modern ones."
* * *
Cabot smiled at the fire fighter. "So what about Mike's home life?"Trevor Roper said, "He was fine. Loved his wife, she loved him, they'd saved some money. They were about to start trying for a baby. I had to rearrange some shifts so he could be free when she was fertile."
"'When she was fertile?'"
"Yeah. It was a planned pregnancy. Not like my three boys. Bang bang bang, and there they were."
"But no hint of marital problems?"
"Mike adored Trish. I mean, the man would walk through Hell for that woman."
"How did he die?"
"Asphyxiation. A section of wall crumbled near him and cut his air hose. He was getting more smoke than air, but he finished rescuing two kids before he collapsed. By the time we got to him, it was too late."
"Sounds like a determined man."
"Did he ever talk about his brother?"
"Loved him, too."
"He sounds like a saint."
Roper laughed. "No, he wasn't a saint. The man was stubborn to a fault. That's why he never made lieutenant."
* * *
Toomey stole into the kitchen and headed for the large refrigerator that held the house white wines. It was not much of a winecellar, but it would get him to the basement. He slipped the door open and only a moment later he was opening the downstairs cellar door.He was tempted to have a glass right then, but managed to resist.
He crept through the basement. He could hear Dr. Severn's bass voice: "These are so loose in here that they can fall out if you have a heavy tread on the stairs. Do you see these small purple marks here, on the cue ball? They look like iodine."
Toomey crept closer, using his clurichaun stealth—
—and hot pain sliced down his back. He bit his tongue to stay silent as he spun around—
—to see nothing. He could feel warm blood trickling down his back, soaking into his shirt.
He swung blindly twice and neither connected with anything. He tried a bear hug and grasped a tatter of rough-spun cloth—but his attacker slipped away. He glanced at the rag in his hand and knew what he was fighting—but in the darkness he couldn't spot his attacker.
Another slash cut open his chest, and he punched blindly. He connected and heard a soft whimper, and then the attacker launched a flurry of attacks, each of which tore Toomey's clothes and flesh. Cursing to himself, he staggered backwards to the wine racks and decanted back upstairs.
* * *Toomey appeared, though Markur was never really sure from where; he had looked away and when he looked back, Toomey was lying there, his clothes in bloody tatters.
"Grandfather," said LaCroix, "check for spirits." As he knelt by Toomey, Markur saw mist flow from LaCroix's walking stick and into the floor.
"Toomey's breathing," said Markur. "But not for long. The wounds look better than they are."
LaCroix thought he heard Toomey whisper, "Says you." But Toomey was unconscious.
"He needs care, though. And we don't want to explain this."
"Carry him outside. I'll call a cab. Take him— Where does he live?"
"I don't know."
"Take him back to the office, then. Take him out back; Ditko Street doesn't allow cars."
"Sure. He's light." Markur looked at Toomey carefully, then lifted him. "Ooof. He's not. Damn me, he's heavy."
LaCroix shrugged. "Faerie."
"You carry him then." But LaCroix was already on his cell phone. Markur staggered outside. Damn if Toomey wasn't getting heavier.
* * *
Hutton was nowhere on the street. Cabot circled the block again. He was starting to feel guilty for leaving her there; she clearly didn't have the street-smarts to be inconspicuous on the street. On his third pass down the block, Hutton was standing on Trish Corrigan's porch. She waved him in. Suddenly angry again, he parked and stalked to the house.
"You're just in time," Hutton said. "Gabe and Eileen should be here any time. You know, cars aren't as fast as I thought they would be."
He drew her to one side. "What are you doing?"
"I couldn't stand out there," she said. "So Trish and I have been talking."
Cabot smacked himself on the forehead. "Of course. Why didn't I think of that?" He glared at her.
"Well, it wasn't easy. She thought I was a religious nut."
"No," she said. "I had to tell her that Eileen had hired us. Once we started talking about this, we realized we needed Gabe and Eileen to talk, too."
Cabot sagged. "Sure. Of course you do. I thought I could just, you know, do my job, but that's not going to happen, is it? We'll give Eileen her money back."
Hutton patted him on the back. "Not if we solve the problem, right?"
The air was drumhead-tight as he walked into the room; Gabe Corrigan had positioned himself near the door with Eileen between him and Trish. Trish stood. "Mr. Cabot? Would you like coffee or tea? I have both on."
"Coffee would be nice, thanks." Cabot introduced himself to Gabe—there didn't seem to be any point in staying anonymous—and stayed between Corrigan and the doorway.
No one spoke.
Finally Hutton said, "Mr. Cabot? Do you want to talk?"
In as even a tone as he could manage, Cabot said, "It's your show. You run it."
She looked wounded. "So be it," she finally said. "Did you learn anything important?"
"They were trying to have a baby, Michael and Trish. No luck yet."
Hutton tilted her head to one side. "Now that makes everything plain."
* * *
Markur set the wounded Toomey down on the ground. There was no sign of a taxi. Cats stalked fluttering birds in this space between blocks.A taxi pulled into the end of the alley—then stopped, and backed away. Markur ran after him, but the car was gone by the time he got there.
When he came back, Toomey's breathing was stertorous and loud. Markur knew Toomey was near the final death. Markur pulled out his pocketknife and opened the blade. Then he pressed the edge against one of Toomey's wounds.
"Please," he murmured.
A boon, came the whisper. You request a boon.
A boon for a boon, came the whisper again. That is the law.
"I offer you blood." Markur cut open his arm, but the cut healed as it was made, leaving pale unmarked skin.
Your blood is already ours, and this one has no soul.
“A sacrifice, then.” With a thought, Markur made the penknife as long as a saber and beheaded a curious pigeon.
The wounds are small. It will do.
Markur laid the blade against Toomey's flesh, and the clurichaun was whole again.
By the time Toomey rose from the pavement, the sword was a penknife again, in Markur's pocket.
* * *
Nothing. No spirits, reported his grandfather. LaCroix nodded, just as Severn and Gaines came into the office, closely followed by Toomey and Markur."You have no ghosts," said LaCroix.
"Your 'psychic powers'?" asked Severn.
"No, all I had to do was see the smirk on your face, Evan. Psychology counts for as much."
"What happened to you?" asked Alice Gaines as she looked at Toomey's bloody, shredded clothes.
"Accident," said Toomey.
Markur said, "Did the staff leave out a bowl of milk every day for the cat?"
"We don't have a cat."
"I know. Did they leave out a bowl of milk anyway?"
"When I came here. I made them stop."
Markur turned to Toomey. "You were right."
"Do you want to know what I found, or will you investigate on your own?"
LaCroix said, "I'd be fascinated to learn what you found, but let us go downstairs and look around." He smiled at Alice Gaines. "You don't need to accompany us."
* * *
"What we know is that your husband loved you very much, Trish," Hutton said. Trish Corrigan's eyes glistened with tears, and she nodded. Hutton felt pleased. She hadn't started crying yet. That would take time."We also know that you and Gabe don't get along. My partner suggested that there were hidden feelings there, but I think maybe you just don't get along."
"We get along. We just don't like each other," said Gabe softly.
"So why should you want to have an affair?"
"I don't," said Gabe.
"Right," said Cabot. "Everybody seems agreed on that." He yawned and wondered where Lamb was going with this—what mystical nonsense she was going to pull?
He felt a tug inside. Something mystical, indeed. He wasn't sure what, though.
"So that points to an external force," said Hutton. "The ghost of your husband, Michael Corrigan." She saw the looks on their faces and plunged on. "You were trying to have a baby, weren't you, Trish? You and Michael."
Cabot concentrated. Sometimes he could see something like auras, move his self elsewhere, like the visions but his whole sense of himself, and— He was beside his body.
"And you hadn't had any success?"
"No. Not yet."
Cabot saw a Gabe slip into Cabot's body. But Gabe was right there.
Hutton nodded. "Now, I don't know what exactly Michael thought he was doing—"
"Genetics," said Cabot in a strained voice. "I'm sorry, Gabe, your body is...like mine. Like mine was. It was as close as I could get to a baby that was Trish's and mine."
Everyone stared at Cabot.
Unheard by any of them, Cabot said, "I want my body back." He thrust his fist against his own shoulder, and it penetrated without effect.
Hutton coughed. "My partner has gifts. He's a psychic."
Eileen said, "He didn't strike me that way at all."
Hutton said, "There's a reason we're the Occult Investigation Agency."
Trish said, "Michael? Is that you?"
"Yes. I can't stay long—he wants his body back."
On the astral plane, Jedediah Cabot said, "Damn right I do."
* * *
Once they were alone, Toomey told them what Severn had found, and what he had found. "A stinking brownie. That's part of the reason the food was so good—they had a brownie."
"And when they stopped feeding it, it got angry," said Markur.
"So it threw the balls at whats-his-name?" asked Gideon.
"And attacked me."
"But what about the iodine marks that Severn mentioned?" Gideon thought. "Roache comes in, Derek goes down the stairs with him, hears about this poltergeist activity, decides to provide some. Roache visited three times, right?"
"That's what he told us."
"So he whips up nitrogen tri-iodide—it's a contact explosive, I—one of my students—used to make it and put it under things. When it's wet, it's not a problem but when it dries, any tremor can make it explode. So he smears some on one or two or three balls in the triangle, and sooner or later it makes the balls go flying through the air."
"It fits," said Markur. "But what do we do about it?"
"What can we do? Toomey, what do we do with a brownie?"
Toomey looked at them as though they were daft. "You give it clothes, and it goes away. Brownies are vicious nasty little buggers but they love their clothes."
"Wait," said Markur, "you were taken to death's door by a naked thing?" He laughed. "With its bare hands."
"They have claws, you know."
"So how do we get it clothes?" asked LaCroix. "I don't see Alice Gaines letting us in again."
"You leave that to me," said Toomey.
* * *
Back at the office, they were gathered back in the reception area.Daya said, "Mr. Cabot did what with a client? Is that even legal?"
"He wasn't really himself," explained Hutton.
Everyone applauded as Cabot came back into the reception area, carrying his coffee mug. Cabot blushed and said, "I wasn't even there. That was just my body. I was—"
"Uh-huh. All the guys say that," said Toomey.
"I don't want to hear any more about it."
"It was just superpowers, after all," said Hutton.
"But how will they solve their problem?" asked Daya.
"Artificial insemination. Eileen suggested it. Now you tell us your case."
"By the way," asked Cabot, "this is great coffee, Talithe. Did you make it?"
"I did," said Gideon.
Toomey looked worried.
Other things that could have been qualities include "Older than she looks" (Lamb is only 16 but does not look it) or "Wants to be liked and even loved." Early on, it's clear (to me) that she has a crush on Cabot.
The brownie has Fair (4) Shrinking (Limit: Constant), Average (3) Slashing, Average (3) Magic, which is normally used for Invisibility or some kind of conjuration magic, and the Quality "Fae."